Why Scottish employers need to take action on flexibility

The first Scottish Timewise Flexible Jobs Index highlights that only 1 in 8 skilled jobs are advertised as being open to flexible working – and that the range of flexibility on offer is limited. Timewise’s Joint CEO, Emma Stewart MBE, explains why the research was commissioned, and what Scottish employers’ next steps should be.


Map of ScotlandSince its launch in 2015, Timewise’s annual UK Flexible Jobs Index has played an important part in the flexible working conversation. It’s allowed us to track the (slow) growth of the flexible jobs market, and given politicians, business leaders, campaigners and employers the facts, figures and insights they need to open up the workplace to flexibility and make it fairer for all.

So we were delighted when the Scottish Government and Family Friendly Working Scotland asked us to create a bespoke index for Scotland, to shine a light on the current state of the flexible hiring market in the country. As with its UK equivalent, the inaugural Timewise Scottish Flexible Jobs Index shows that we have a long way to go if we’re to match the number and type of flexibly advertised jobs with the people who need them.

Only 1 in 8 adverts for quality jobs mention flexibility

The research found that only 11.9% of jobs paying more than £20k full time equivalent (FTE) are advertised as offering flexibility at the point of hire – that’s just over one in eight. And the further you go up the salary ladder, the worse the ratio gets; for roles paying between £35k and £59k FTE, it drops to less than one in 10 (8.9%).

Yet the demand is certainly there; more than a third (34%) of unemployed people in Scotland are looking for part time or flexible vacancies, and those who currently work flexibly are also likely to be seeking similar opportunities when moving jobs. And that’s not including those who may have dropped out of the workforce altogether because the flexible jobs they needed weren’t there.

For people who want or need to work flexibly in Scotland, then, there’s a disproportionally small pool of jobs to apply for, particularly at a higher level. This can force people to trade down for flexibility, or get stuck in flexible jobs beneath their skill and ability levels, which not only blocks their own progression but can also limit mobility for less qualified people coming up behind them. And it can prevent some people from working at all, which can have a devastating effect, particularly on low-income households.

Innovation is the key to making flexibility the new normal

Of course, flexibility isn’t just about keeping employees happy (although obviously, it helps). As the demand for flexibility continues to increase, employers who have flexibility as part of their offer will be best-placed to attract and retain the best talent. It’s also been shown to improve employees’ productivity, motivation and engagement, not to mention helping address diversity and the gender pay gap.

So now the facts and figures are out in the open, and the benefits are clear, what should Scottish employers do to get behind flexible hiring? The answer is to think differently about the way flexible jobs are designed. Instead of assuming flexibility can’t work for certain roles, employers need to look at how, when and where a job needs to be done and create jobs that have flexibility built in. That means thinking innovatively, designing jobs that suit the way we live and work now, and being prepared to shout about it at the point of hire.

If Scottish employers get behind this, and start hiring on a truly flexible basis, there’s a real opportunity to create a strong, inclusive and lasting flexible jobs market, for the benefit of everyone. The Scottish Government has already committed to leading by example by becoming a more flexible recruiter, and we are delighted to be working with them achieve this; if you would like us to help you in a similar way, please do get in touch.

To find out more about our consultancy and training services, contact natalie.gill@timewise.co.uk or call Natalie on 020 7633 4451